Watch out for these signs after a hernia repair

Most people who have experienced any type of abdominal hernia will tell you that it is one of the most painful things imaginable.

Generally speaking, a hernia is a medical condition where an organ pushes through an opening, or defect, in the muscle or tissue that is supposed to keep it in place. Common types of hernia include inguinal, incisional, femoral, umbilical, and hiatal hernias.

I recently met with a new client who had problems breathing during and after what was planned to be a routine gallbladder surgery. This complication led to a hospital admission and workup, including an abdominal CT scan revealed the presence of a large hernia in the diaphragm.

The particular hernia at issue was a congenital Morgagni hernia. For this type of hernia, only about 30% of patients have any symptoms at all. In this person’s case, though, it was causing breathing problems because part of the intestines were herniating through the diaphragm and putting pressure on the heart.

A thoracic surgeon took the patient to the operating room for an open surgery in a hospital in the northeast Houston area, rather than doing a robot-assisted or laparoscopic procedure. The surgeon used mesh and stitches in an attempt to correct the hernia defect. Basically, the goal was to close the hole through which part of the intestines were poking through.

Within a week of the hernia surgery, my new client was back at home and noticed that the incision was red. The surgeon’s office was not particularly helpful, and just advised the patient to go to the emergency room if there was concern for infection. Within a few days, my client was back at a suburban Houston emergency room and was given IV antibiotics and prescription to get filled.

After another week went by, my client returned to the same emergency room because of severe pain. This time, they did an abdominal CT, which the radiologist interpreted as showing a hernia—the same one that was supposed to have been fixed weeks earlier.

My client ended up to a major hospital in the Texas Medical Center and was taken to the operating room by a different thoracic surgeon. The new surgeon quickly saw that there had not been a relapse of the hernia in the diaphragm—the hernia had not been repaired in the first place.

After the nine-hour surgery to repair the hernia, the surgeon told his patient that he saw the three stitches that the first surgeon had placed, but they were not even close to the hernia itself. The surgeon was also surprised that the intestines had not been pulled down into the right place. There is no doubt that this was continuing to cause the patient’s pain and symptoms.

Failed hernia repair

If you have had a hernia repair surgery, there are some things that you should keep an eye out for.

Pain, redness, or swelling at the site of the incision, which could be signs of an infection. Other times it can be a sign that tissue has eroded, or broken down, around the muscle tissues at the former hernia site, causing the hernia to reopen.

Some surgeons use mesh for surgical repairs, placing a metal or plastic mesh over the site of the defect or hole to reinforce it and keep the organ in the proper place. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has warned, though, that there are serious potential side effects from mesh, including pain, adhesion (scar tissue forms that can be painful and even progress to the point that it fuses two organs together), and internal bleeding.

Abdominal hernias can be dangerous and may require urgent surgical attention. I recently handled a failed hiatal hernia repair case where the patient’s stomach herniated and got twisted almost like a phone cord. This was an avoidable condition if the surgeon had performed the initial repair correctly, or had acted quickly when the hernia was demonstrated on a CT scan after the surgery.

We are here to help

If you or someone you care for has experienced a failed hernia repair, then you may have a medical malpractice case. For a free evaluation, call Painter Law Firm, at 281-580-8800, for a free evaluation of your potential case by an experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer.


Robert Painter is a medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, where he represents patients and families who have been seriously injured because of medical negligence. He has handled a variety of surgical cases, including botched hernia repairs, bariatric procedures, and orthopedic and spine surgeries, to name a few.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.